Pro-Choice Battleground Shifts from New Orleans to Jackson

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Activists who spent the last week defending abortion clinics, doctors and patients against anti-choice extremists in New Orleans have moved onto the next reproductive rights battleground: Jackson, Miss. There are currently defending the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only remaining abortion clinic in the state, and were a presence at the courthouse Monday where the trials of  several key anti-abortion extremists took place.

Chet Gallagher was found guilty yesterday of interfering with the operations of a lawful business. He is a former police officer who was fired for joining an anti-abortion protest while in uniform and then using his uniform to gain access to an abortion clinic where he destroyed property. Roy McMillan, who was found guilty of obstructing the sidewalk, has been arrested several times in the past for his extremism and is an advocate for the “justifiable homicide” of abortion doctors. He is also known for throwing plastic fetuses at car windows as drivers approach clinics.

Cal Zastrow, whose case was dismissed, has campaigned for “personhood” amendments in Mississippi and Colorado while Harriet Ashley, found guilty of obstructing the sidewalk and failing to obey a police officer, is an Operation Save America protester. All those found guilty are subject to $500 or more in fines and may not have contact with the clinic or be on the sidewalk out front. The defendants have appealed, but for now the sentences remain in effect.

Dozen of anti-choice protesters gathered at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and outside the courthouse Monday, but women’s rights advocates from the Feminist Majority Foundation and other organizations were there to match their numbers and ensure there was a strong pro-choice presence in Jackson.

duVergne Gaines, director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project, is in Jackson and said in a statement:

We know our vigilance helps to prevent violence against doctors and clinics. Especially in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision striking down a Massachusetts clinic buffer zone law, our work to defend abortion clinics has become even more important.

Even though activists have moved from New Orleans to Jackson, reproductive freedom is by no means safe in Louisiana. Anti-choice extremists from Operation Save America have filed a lawsuit against the state demanding the publication of abortion records, though the state’s health department already refused a similar request three years ago, explaining that “state law prohibits the disclosure of patient data gathered from physicians.”

This week The Rachel Maddow Show will be running a series of segments on the New Orleans protests. Be sure to tune in to get all the details of what’s been happening on the ground.

To help the Feminist Majority Foundation continue combatting anti-abortion violence, please consider making a donation to the National Clinic Access Project.

Photo of Jackson Women’s Health Organization entrance courtesy of Flickr user Ashton Elijah licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.



Associate editor of Ms. magazine